Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » February 2005 » More Jon Rowe...

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02/22/2005: More Jon Rowe...

Jon Rowe (Libertarian lawyer, Bogger and most brilliant "Thinker") has been "at it" again in this post The Ten Commandments and the Civil Law:

"I'm leaning towards the conclusion that the manner in which the Commandments were displayed was unconstitutional (even though not all Ten Commandments displays on public property ought to be considered unconstitutional; it depends on the context).

Certain pro-display arguments might convince me: for instance the argument that a display of the Decalogue is not an "establishment" of religion any more than the public display of text of the Koran, the book of Mormon or the Bhagavad Gita would be.

But it does pro-display forces no good to argue their case with dumb, historically inaccurate arguments that completely misunderstand and misrepresent the founding principles of this nation.

The fact is the Ten Commandments were an historical legal code -- for the Old Testament Jews. And for much of Western History, Christendom did indeed incorporate the Decalogue into its civil code. And this resulted in theocratic tyranny, exactly the type of thing that we rebelled against when we Declared our Independence in 1776. (Emphasize mine)

Jon goes on to make the credible and most logical connection between the purpose of our Constitution and Founding Fathers to avoid this co-mingling of State & Religious principles.
For instance, examine exactly what the Ten Commandments say and then ask how we might derive a "civil norm" from each. In the First, the God of the Hebrew scriptures forbids worship of any other God but He. David Barton, a shining star of the religious right and propagator of the "Christian Nation" theory, in an affidavit supporting the public display of the Decalogue, proudly gives us examples of colonial civil laws, dating back hundreds of years before the Founding, based upon the First Commandment (and other parts of the Bible) that give the DEATH PENALTY for worshipping "any other god but the Lord God."

This is quite frankly the antithesis of the theory of religious liberty that founds our nation. Also laughable is the attempt to draw some kind of connection between the Ten Commandments and the Declaration of Independence. If anything, these two theories need to be reconciled with one another.

For instance, the theory of religious liberty that founds this nation is part-and-parcel of the natural law of the Declaration of Independence, which many people regard as the organic law of the United States. According to such theory all men -- even those who would worship no God or twenty Gods, in the words of Jefferson and Madison, have unalienable Free and Equal Rights of Conscience and hence the right to worship openly as they please. This is the polar opposite of those colonial civil codes, based on the Ten Commandments, that demand the Death Penalty for worshiping "False Gods." "

I will also be watching with with interest the outcome and ruling by the Supreme Court on this issue. I agree with Jon that "not all Ten Commandments displays on public property ought to be considered unconstitutional; it depends on the context." It will be up to the High Court to lay out those contextual definitions and circumstances for diplays. Hopefully this will be something on which all the nine Justices can concur unanimously....would help to clarify and settle this most tricky "how to split the baby" kind of questions we wrestle with in our modern versions of King Solomon's disputes.

Karen on 02.22.05 @ 04:41 AM CST

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February 2005

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